Sunday, May 25, 2014

Is your company "agile" only when it's convenient

Agile is a Mindset.
Agile is an emergent mindset and PM methodology. However, there are many roadblocks on the way: Some say not only is Agile used when convenient, but Agile is often misused ('Agile means no documentation') and it gets blamed when projects fail. The phenomenon where agile is fine as long as things are moving along at a steady state but when the chips are down and the cards are on the table; when the big contract or the must have project is at stake; agile goes out the window and the waterfall mentality wins the day. Is your company agile only when it’s convenient?

Leadership: Many managers claim to be "Agile" as that is what is expected, yet they are not. Sadly, it is common where managers are not leaders. Leaders do the right things to deliver on a value such as customer satisfaction; whereas managers do the things right to push for "on time, on-budget delivery". Scientific Management and Taylor-ism is so entrenched in management training, with a little education on leadership. Most managers fail to see the difference between leadership versus management. 

Mindset: This phenomenon (the company is agile only when it's convenient) is clearly a symptom of lack of Agile mindset. Agile mindset embraces three Is: Improvement, Interaction, and Incrementalism. Trying to practice Agile without the Agile mindset is like pouring water over an inverted glass. It's pointless. It is a big convenience for many companies as it is the right thing to say. The actions are however in total contradiction to the practices. 

Trust: Trust is the two-way street and key successful factor in Agile: Do the managers trust the team? If they do they won't intervene. If they don't trust, then when they see bigger risk, they will intervene.  On the other side, how can the team get greater trust from the management in such circumstances? It helps if the team understands, and can demonstrate an understanding of, the risk, and explain why their approach addresses the risk.

Stretch, not stress: A lot of managers believe that the way to get more out of a development team is to put them under pressure. They like to have long-term estimates in place so they have some baseline to apply that pressure against. In sunny time, this is not such a problem. But, when the pressure is on, they often revert to problems. The root cause of the problem is that a lot of managers are successful because they work hard and often long hours. They project this behavior on to development teams and assume it is necessary for success.

It is subjective and dependent on the market or industry. Some claim agile fame only to satisfy executive missive rather than truly use it. Others hybrid it and call it agile to whatever sense they can, while a few truly run agile efforts consistently for the right projects. There are however many good companies where they are truly agile and work in an agile way.


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